Beale Air Force Base readies for possible cuts

By BEN VAN DER MEER | Appeal-Democrat | Published: September 23, 2012

Marysville, Calif. — Absent a breakthrough in Congress before the end of the year, cuts are coming to Beale Air Force Base.

But so far, base officials and community members who work with the base said they are not sure exactly what those cuts will entail, only that they'll have an impact.

"We're always concerned, but you always need to be in concert with the Air Force," said Bill Simmons, an Air Force veteran and member of the base's liaison committee.

In an email, base spokesman Capt. Brian Wagner echoed that viewpoint.

"Our stance on the sequestration follows the stance of our senior Air Force and DOD leadership, which have repeatedly stated that sequestration would have a negative impact on our ability to train and equip our forces," Wagner wrote.

He also referred to remarks last month by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, to the House Armed Services Committee.

"We will seek to minimize effects on readiness. However, Air Force flying hours for pilots could be reduced by several hours a month and Navy steaming days could decline by several days a quarter," Carter said. "The result will be reduced training and lower readiness."

Carter did not mention Beale. So far, Wagner said, base officials have not received word of any specific cuts.

However, a group advocating strong defense spending, "... for the Common Defense," has published reports online of potential impacts to Beale contracts under sequestration, including a $4.5 million cut to the 9th Contracting Squadron.

Sequestration refers to the broad-based cuts to federal spending called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which stipulated those cuts to begin next year unless Congress and the president came up with a spending plan to reduce the country's debt.

"Congress needs to do it," said Ron Bartoli, who chairs the Beale Military Liaison Committee.

But he said there's fear any plan won't get done until the last minute, and may not be fully vetted.

"With the elections, no one wants to mess with this stuff right now," he said.

Last week, members of Congress adjourned without approving such a plan, though some believe it could still happen during a session after the November election but before the new Congress is seated next year.

Among those believing sequestration won't happen is US Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. Garamendi's press secretary said Friday in an email that Garamendi has voted for plans to avoid defense cuts as stipulated and would continue to work on the issue.

Simmons said as far as he knows, missions based at Beale such as the U-2 spy plane and MC-12 reconnaissance aircraft will remain at Beale, and the pilotless Global Hawk drone has received a reprieve from mothballs and will continue through another year.

Because the base has established itself as the military's hub for high-altitude reconnaissance, he said, it might weather the budget storms better than most.

"We have to make sure we keep supporting it," he said.



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